18 Jun Training Tales
Training with the Coastguard S92 from Caernarfon. On 17th June, the Sikorsky S92, which supercedes the Seaking, flew to Bowness to train around 30 members of LDSAMRA including 7 members from Keswick. We heard it arriving long before it landed. With a top speed of 269km per hour, the crew are able to reach the Lakes in 30-40 minutes depending on conditions.
Geared up with goggles, doggles (for the SARDA dogs!), ear plugs and helmets to protect us from the downwash, we split into 3 groups. First, Mike the winchman, introduced us to the new snag-free winch hook. The S 92 has a dual hoist, each with 300 foot of cable and can winch at a speedy 325 feet per minute, so much faster than the Seaking.
Next, a tour of the outside of this 56ft long giant. The S92 is equipped with all the latest equipment including FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red), Trakkabeam searchlight which can light up crags as daylight, and de-icing rotor blades. Each blade (main and rear) has a titanium strip on the forward edge. As ice builds up, the titanium is heated, and the ice just falls away. This will be of great value during winter rescues as the system works up to 10,000 feet.
Then, a tour of the inside which was surprisingly cramped as the stretcher shelf and additional fuel tank takes up a lot of space. We buckled ourselves into the seats, learned how to remove them, and where all the emergency exits are.
Next, the team very efficiently winched all 30 of us in pairs (plus dogs) as the S92 hovered 20 foot above the field. The noise and downdraft as you approached the aircraft were intense and practically blew some of us off our feet but the winch itself was straightforward and very exciting!
Finally, we had some hi line practice where a rope is attached to the stretcher and as it is raised to the helicopter, team members on the ground hold it taut to prevent it moving around too much.
A big thank you to the crew who were very professional and happy to answer all our questions. A real highlight of the training year for many of us and we look forward to working with the S92 crew in the near future.